My 2014 gouache painting, Wildflowers was inspired by a visit to a riverbank park in my home city, Shenyang. It was spring time and the abundant wildeflowers lent colors and joy to the large expanse of dark green meadow, just in front of some dignified woods. It was a joy to encounter this cheerful sight, yet with certain gravitas, in the usually gray and somber city. It was even more joyful to be able to capture such wonderful memory of my home city in a magical moment.
My first oil painting completed in 2017, The Wash, continued to explore and express spatial relationship and (ir)regular patterns. This landscape was inspired by some haunting though dimming images crossed path with me a long while ago, of some laundered white sheets, blown wildly by strong wind, struggling to remain on the laundry lines. The rhythmic movements of those flapping sheets generated an atmosphere of both orderly and unruly, and such sense of drama was heightened by the stark contrasts between the blindingly bright sheets and the dark soil and sky, which foretold a menacing storm, poising to ruin the pristine cleanness of those vulnerable sheets.
Inspired by the lush fall colors in the valleys, and rushing cascades in the mountains of Yosemite, which I recently visited, I made a gouache painting, titled Cascade, trying to capture the spirits and impression of the marvel, instead of literal shapes and shades.
A simple and heart-warming souvenir.
The first painting I completed in 2017, Origin, was an abstract gouache painting, with yellow dusts scattered on a very dark background — red and blue streaks intermingled with swirling thin layer of black paint. A striking contrast and beautiful presentation, perhaps depicting the beginning, or end of the time.
The inception of this piece was a strange one. It was inspired by my aged, multiple-layered, and simultaneously muddied and rich-hued palette. A small vision triggered a larger one.
My last oil painting completed in 2016, Remembrance, featured a ghostly profile of a pale and pensive person, occupying lower third of the canvas, head bending down, in deep thoughts, with a barely registered presence. Against this sketchily and thinly painted bust, the strongly accented abstract and dark background, asserted itself strongly, and became obvious the representation of the things to remember, a commentary to his thoughts. Perhaps, the winding road or river in the far background reminded him of the toil in the past; perhaps, the repeating pattern of vertical shapes, reminded his of the hopes raised in the past and perhaps not wholly accomplished, or even lost. An apt conclusion to a quite regrettable year of the turbulent 2016.
As if I had anticipated a gloomy election season to conclude this year, back in late January, I worked on and finished a painting titled Apprehend, featuring a lonely bird, enclosed in a disorienting and confused space, sketchily defined by indistinct horizontal and vertical stripes of various thickness and shades of blue, black and yellow.
The bird, in cautions pose, peers into the uncertain distance, seemingly full of expectation and comprehension, an apt metaphor of people in this traumatic post-election time.
Recently I created an installation Wilting Flowers and fully documented the creation and installation processes.
This new effort was spurred by my continued fascination with paper material – delicate, malleable, and transitory, characteristics well suited for hinting at, versus representing, a world full of fragility and vulnerability, constantly under the threat of total destruction.
My local newspaper, “The San Francisco Chronicle”, served as the foundation: a segment of our time, distilled and encapsulated. Inky strokes and splashes were added to the newspaper sheets, which were folded and tied up to form large flowers, with aluminum wires wrapped with dyed twine as stems.
For the background, I chose five sheets of plain white paper, streaked with similar black strokes of ink diluted with various amount of water.
To install, I attached these background paper to a wall in an uneven row, then affixed those flowers, 13 total, to those sheets. There were no strict rules about how to lay out the background sheets and flowers, as long as the finished installation looked balanced, and the flowers largely faced outwards.
I have installed these sheets and flowers on different surfaces – a colorful graffitied plywood wall, or somber looking wooden fences, at different times of the day. The differences between the surfaces, the different light cast on the wall or fence, background sheets and paper flowers, all contributed to a murmuring polyphony.
My 2007 oil painting One Fine Day soon will conclude its five-month long exhibition at at McGuire Real Estate Gallery in Elmwood District, Berkeley. This painting, in somewhat sickly moon light tone (pale Prussian blue), depicted a school of agitated and thrashing fish, tightly packed in confining space, bulging eyes telegraphing anguish, straining to escape of a deadly trap they had unfortunately fallen into.
The ironic title I chose, perhaps ought to be ascribed to some lucky fishermen. And that spoke the volume of the relationship of mankind and the unfortunate nature.
My Mirage, a fantastic painting, was based on a vision visited me when I was falling asleep but with enough mental presence to get up to make quick notes – a distant town, whose outlines barely discernible, in the manner of those commonly seen in old Dutch or Flemish landscape paintings, overwhelmed by several enormous and boldly sketched black feathers floating above the sky. Behind those dark and somewhat ominous feathers, a delicately pretty pale blue sky flashed through persistently. Yet, despite the seemingly menace, those dark feathers also looked rather protective and comforting. A world of ambiguity.
Nurtured by many Russian novels while growing up, I developed a special feeling towards the omnipresent birches, which not only aptly set the scenes and evoke the particular melancholy especially associated with Russia and Russian people, and finally, I made effort in 2006 to try to capture such feelings with a painting titled Birches, which is currently showing at the McGuire Real Estate gallery in Berkeley as part of the “Crowded by Beauty” exhibit.
I love the slender shapes of the trees, the softness of the finely-layered birch barks and their eerie silver color, and above all, the eye-shaped knobs imprinted on the trunks from bottom to top, as if birches were meant to be the chosen observers from silent world, so as to judge humankind.
That painting is also a play of optical illusion – amongst the eyes on the trunks, there was a singular eye floating in the space, unattached, between two indifferent birches. Inundated by so many eyes, this oddity was not immediately obvious; once detected, one might ask, if this is a most determined birch eye, the eye of an invisible human, or just a wandering independent eye belong to nothing and no one.